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Same/Different: Ways Preschoolers Perceive People

As your child grows, she becomes more sophisticated in noticing and classifying the people she encounters every day.

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Logic and Reasoning
Attention and Focus
Critical Thinking
Independent Thinking

At 3 years old, she may:

  • notice and ask about other people's physical characteristics, although she is still more interested in her own
  • notice other children's specific cultural acts: Elena speaks differently from me; Mei eats with chopsticks
  • exhibit fears about skin color differences and physical disabilities

At 4, he may:

  • show more interest in how he is like and different from other children; construct "theories" about what causes physical and cultural differences 
  • begin to classify people into groups by physical characteristics (same gender, same color, same eye shape) 
  • be confused about the meaning of adult categories for what "goes together." For example, how can a light-skinned child have a dark-skinned parent? Why are children called "black" when their skin isn't black? 
  • show influence of societal norms in his interactions with others ("Girls can't do this; boys can") 

At 5, she may:

  • show an awareness of additional characteristics, such as socioeconomic class and age
  • demonstrate heightened awareness of themselves and others as members of a family, as well as curiosity about how families of other children and teachers live: How can Sara have two mommies?
  • continue to construct theories to classify or explain differences among classmates
  • continue to absorb and use stereotypes to define others, and to tease or reject other children

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